National Coming Out Day (NCOD) happened this month on October 11th. This is a day in which individuals and allies who are in support of the LGBTQ+ community celebrate those who have come out of the closet and support those who have not. NOCD raises awareness through education, support, sharing stories, and the hope that many can live openly and safely. This day honors the act of someone coming out whether towards themselves or others. Coming out is an act that takes courage, self-acceptability, and is not something that only happens once for someone. The event plans to continue to get rid of widespread homophobia and hate, from family members and friends due to stereotypes. National Coming Out Day is not only part of LGBTQIA+ past but part of the present, this holiday and its purpose should be acknowledged all year long.
What Exactly is Coming Out?
Coming out of the closet is a metaphor used for someone who is part of the LGBTQ+ community as expressing their disclosure of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It is a process in which individuals accept their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and share it with others, it is this process that allows them to be their true selves. Coming out is an extremely personal and different experience for everyone. No two stories are the same, whether it be the event itself or the reactions. It also does not happen just one day a year, coming out can happen any day at any time.
On a recent survey, 81.5% of individuals in MAST @Homestead have heard of National Coming Out Day. As 18.5% of individuals had not.
Why is it Celebrated on October 11th?
National Coming Out Day (NOCD) is dedicated to the march of which occurred on October 11th, 1987 in Washington DC. This march happened with over 500,000 individuals participating, all wanting to raise awareness about the LGBTQ+ community and civil rights. The individuals who had first proposed the idea were Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary. Robert Eichberg was a psychologist who advocated for political rights for the LGBTQ+ community. He also has a book called “Coming Out: an Act of Love,” he later died from complications of AIDS in 1995. Jean O’Leary was a women’s rights advocate. She founded Lesbian Feminist Liberation in 1972 and joined the National LGBTQ+ Task Force. She later died in 2005 from lung cancer. Her legacy lives on for her contribution to not only the LGBTQ+ community but advocacy in the National Women’s Conference, and in the FX miniseries Mrs. America where Anna Douglas portrays her.
NOCD became official in 1988, and since then has been celebrated throughout each year. (find out what this year’s theme is and talk about it). NCOD gains more popularity and recognition every year, as more public figures and celebrities have publicly identified themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ community. During this time of year celebrities tweet in support of NCOD, and share supporting messages online for those who can not come out.
Celebrating NOCD is important because of its impact and diversity. National Coming Out Day celebrates the diversity of people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. This helps spread acceptance about the differences individuals have. Celebrating also sheds light on the importance of the movement itself and why it started. NOCD can also be life-changing for some individuals, even one of the most important dates in someone’s life. NOCD can celebrate someone’s new beginning by not hiding any aspect of their identity.
How to Observe and Celebrate National Coming Out Day
There are several ways to observe the holiday and its importance. Things such as contributing to the human rights campaign or even posting support on media are some of the easiest ways to observe NCOD. One way of observing are is learning more about LGBTQ+ history and its importance for this day; as well as supporting friends and family who celebrate this holiday or identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
There is No Right or Wrong Way: The Process of Coming Out
There is no right or wrong way to come out to family, friends, or even strangers. It is simply based on how comfortable you are with this individual and how you feel is the best way to come out. Being able to have support can help you feel safe and comfortable.
These Are Some Tips To Keep In Mind When Planning On How To Come Out
Some individuals plan ahead what they are going to say and when. Planning is not for everyone though, it helps you figure out what to say and how to say it. Some questions to ask yourself are:
- How do I want to come out?
- Is there a way I can prepare prior to this event?
- What response can I expect?
- What do I expect their reactions will be, based on what I know about the person I’m sharing with?
- How do I want them to react?
Finding the Right Environment:
Some considerations of the right environment is the timing, location, and even how specific locations can affect coming out. Each one of these considerations can vary and be able to open up to others is based on how comfortable you feel.
There is no right time to come out, and it can vary based on who exactly you are coming out to. Sometimes it can range from coming out at a random time and other situations it can happen when this individual is calm and relaxed. It is based on how it feels right for you. Some questions to ask yourself are:
- What time works best for me (and/or that individual I will speak with) to come out?
- What time of day feels like a good time to share? (before school, after work, during dinner, etc.)
- What time of year feels like a good time to share? (school season, summer, holidays)
Just like timing, there is no right location to come out, it just varies on what you feel is the most comfortable location for yourself. Some places might feel safer than other locations, some questions to ask yourself are:
- Would I rather be in a public or private space?
- Does the home feel like a safe place to talk?
- Where would both of us be comfortable talking?
- Is there a special location where we both can talk?
School is a location where one can come out, towards their peers, counselor, or even teachers. This environment can be a safe or uncomfortable place to come out, however, it is best to keep your wellness and safety in mind when coming out.
- How would being out at school make me feel?
- Who would I want to share with at school?
- Are there supportive faculty members, counselors, teachers, or adults at my school? (There are school faculty and staff such as the counselors, who are supportive throughout the school, you can spot these individuals by looking for the I’m An Ally sticker in their classroom. It can be found on a window or on their desk where students can easily spot the sticker.)
- Is there a Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA) or similar club/community that I feel comfortable attending? (There is a GSA located in this school, they meet once a month. Their sponsor is Mr. Oliveros located in room 208, he also is one of the supportive faculty members where you can find the I’m An Ally sticker in his classroom.)
- Are there anti-bullying rules that protect LGBTQ students that are enforced?
- Will coming out, put my safety at risk? If so, what steps can I take to stay safe?
Overall Consider the Following for Any Situation When Coming Out:
- Pick someone who you feel is very supportive or accepting
- When you come out, think about what you want to say and choose the time and place carefully based on what will be most safe and supportive.
- Do some research so that you have information about being LGBTQ+ in case someone has questions or doesn’t have the facts.
- You may be more comfortable coming out by writing a letter or e-mail rather than telling someone in person. Do whatever you feel is best for both you and the person you are coming to to.
- Be prepared for any negative reaction from some people. Some need more time than others to
come toadjust to what they have heard from you. Their reaction does not affect the realness of your identity and is never your fault.
- Don’t give up hope if you don’t get the reaction you wanted. Remember that you have the right to be who you are, to be out and open about all important aspects of your identity. In no case is another person’s rejection evidence of your lack of worth or value.
- If you have already come out to others whom you trust, alert them that you are coming out and make time to talk afterward about how things went. Find trusted allies who can help you cope with your experiences.
- Get support and use the resources available to you.
“Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start.”Jason Collins
How to Find Support and Support Others
There are many ways to find support online or in school, as there are many people who are willing to help individuals express their identity. Some of the support systems at school are the GSA, Counselors, and even the Alliance program which can be directed through school counselors. Online support can be through the Trevor Project and small LGBTQ+ inclusive small groups.
Supporting someone who has come out is one of the simplest yet meaningful things for an individual to do. It can help that person so much than one can expect. This holiday and its importance is one that will always shape LGBTQ+ history. Not being part of the community directly but being an ally still means you can participate. You can always raise awareness of coming out and celebrating with those who have come out. Celebrating this achievement does not only need to be on this specific day, it can be any day of the year. It is never too late to be supportive and help spread awareness.